Many of my friends, frenemies and associates used to call me a conspiracist, or a believer in conspiracy theories. But, being the contrarian that I sometimes like to be, I would disagree with that categorization. It’s just that I don’t take things at face value all the time.
Along those lines, I recall when the NY Times did their exhaustive study of the New York City taxi industry in May 2019 – a friend mentioned that when he reads the newspaper or sees a news story on a topic he knows nothing about, he takes the source to be gospel. On the other hand, when he reads the newspaper reporting on a topic of which he is familiar, he can point out all the errors and omissions that slant the article one way or another.
Conspiracy theories have been with us for hundreds of years, usually as a pat explanation for the difficulties one person or group is facing. Author Richard Hofstadter wrote a piece called “The Paranoid Style,” which explained, in 1964, how conspiracy theories have long been a part of our political landscape and usually as an explanation of how things went bad or were purportedly bad or hidden.
I would point out that just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean that somebody’s not following you.
Typically utilized by the powerless, conspiracy theories have also been promulgated by authoritarian governments or wannabe dictators. Senator Joseph McCarthy, in his witch hunts, was a master at innuendo, smear tactics and evidence-free accusations.
The objects of the conspiracy theories or the conspirators have been Freemasons, global bankers, Jews, Moslems, Armenians, Catholics, Jesuits etc. So, depending upon one’s orientation, virtually everyone seems to be eligible to be performing a conspiracy according to one theory or another.
As for me, the John F. Kennedy assassination provided enough fodder to keep me engaged in the minutiae for decades. A whole industry of “conspiracists” surrounding the assassination has blossomed ever since the Warren Commission reported that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin. As for other high-profile murders, like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, there have been some conspiracy theories but not to the extent of the former president.
The problem with conspiracy theories is the lack of “smoking gun” evidence. Is it merely enough for the House Select Committee on Assassinations to have asserted that President Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy? If the process was legitimate and transparent to determine what really happened, then I’m ok with the findings.
So, what does this all have to do with the taxi industry? And what do conspiracy theories have to do with the plight of the taxi driver/owner/stake holder? I will list some evidence without judgment or testimony.
- The rate of fare and word taxi were removed from the door of every cab, and replaced with a large T.
- Professor Katrina Wyman of NYU Law School performed a study (Problematic Private Property) that contained a section as to the likelihood of the city government surviving a 5th amendment constitutional takings claim from the taxi industry, meaning that destruction of the medallion as property would not be subject to that 5th amendment claim, like eminent domain.
- The taxi industry defeated Mayor Bloomberg in two legal cases having to do with the “Taxi of Tomorrow” and hybrid vehicles.
- In a settlement with the ADA, the Bloomberg Administration mandated that the taxi industry become 50% compliant and wheelchair accessible.
- The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission posted bogus sales prices on their website potentially harming buyers and lenders who relied on that data.
- Bloomberg bypassed the NY City Council in an effort to implement his borough taxi plan (Green taxis). The State Assembly and State Senate were the governmental entities that put this law into action and Governor Cuomo signed the bill, which also contained wording to the effect of reiterating the yellow taxi’s exclusivity in the central business district and NY airports.
- Bloomberg screams at fleet owner Evgeny Freidman that, “I will destroy your f*cking industry,” as reported by the NY Post.
- TLC allows Uber to ramp up to 80,000 vehicles by not enforcing many of its own rules, regulations and laws.
- TLC sells 358 of 400 wheelchair accessible medallions at auction as the effects of Uber start to take hold.
- The city fends off lawsuits filed by individuals, credit unions and other stake holders by claiming that Uber, Lyft, et al, are not similarly situated as yellow taxis because Uber and Lyft are hailed by prior arrangement. In fact, at the time, one could not order or arrange a vehicle pick up in advance.
- The New York Times conducts a lengthy study of the NYC taxi industry with a particular focus on how the banks, credit unions were to blame for the implosion of the medallion value due to reckless lending practices, as if the advent and rapid expansion of Uber was merely coincidental. The Times also finds fault with former TLC head Matt Daus for promoting the medallion as a means for attaining the American dream of owning one’s business. That Daus was not head of the TLC for the prior nine years is indicative of the bias the Times had. Little mention of TLC Chairman Meera Joshi in the series of articles, or former TLC Chairman David Yassky or former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
- The removal of the Camry Hybrid from the mandated vehicle list. The vehicle was a preferred car of choice and accelerated the migration to Uber for drivers who wanted to drive and keep the car.
I’m sure there are many things I left out in this list of particulars, but when seen together, it gives one an overall sense of what happened here. Those in the industry don’t need much education since we’ve lived it, but those in power – like the NY State Attorney General – need to be cognizant of how those in power stole wealth from a group of people, primarily immigrants, and handed it over to Wall Street and Silicon Valley.